An upcoming electric version of the Volvo XC90 could get what the automaker calls "fully autonomous highway driving" thanks to new sensors.
Volvo announced Monday that, beginning in 2022, vehicles built on its SPA2 platform will get roof-mounted lidar sensors from Luminar, a Silicon Valley firm the automaker has been funding since 2018.
The lidar sensors will enable what Volvo calls "Highway Pilot," which the automaker said would allow vehicles to drive themselves on specific stretches of highway, in certain conditions.
That description seems closer to advanced driver-assist systems like Cadillac Super Cruise and Tesla Navigate on Autopilot. The automaker also hinted that Highway Pilot will be offered as a subscription, similar to what Tesla has discussed for its Full Self-Driving Capability option.
"Cars based on SPA2 will be updated with software over the air and if customers decide to opt for it, the Highway Pilot feature that enables fully autonomous highway driving will be activated once it is verified to be safe for individual geographic locations and conditions."
Volvo did not specifically mention charging a fee, but enabling the system via software update fits with Tesla's recent announcement that it would offer Full Self-Driving to customers who didn't get it when a car was new, or bought a used car.
The next-generation XC90 is expected to be the first SPA2-based vehicle to reach production, and Volvo has discussed an all-electric version.
Volvo is expected to finish expanding its South Carolina factory by late 2021 to build next-generation XC90 models, including the model we suspect will be called XC90 Recharge.
The automaker aims to make half of its global output all-electric by 2025. To get there, it's inked big battery contracts with CATL and LG Chem.
In the meantime, Volvo sees plug-in hybrids (like the current XC90 T8) as a way to get greater electrification, and is offering a scheme in which it pays plug-in hybrid drivers for the electricity they use for the first year.
Volvo started taking orders for the upcoming XC40 Recharge in January. That model is still expected to arrive later this year.